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December 16, 2009

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Sea bridge goes long way to link key zones

CONSTRUCTION of the world's longest cross-sea bridge linking China's southern economic hub of Guangdong Province to Hong Kong and Macau began yesterday, a project expected to strengthen economic ties.

Starting from Lantau Island off the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Y-shaped Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge will have a total length of almost 50 kilometers, of which about 35km will be built over the sea, making it the longest of its kind, according to Zhu Yongling, an official in charge of the project's construction.

It will encompass a six-lane expressway with a speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour.

"It will be able to withstand the impact of strong winds with a speed of 51 meters per second, or equal to a maximum Beaufort scale 16 (184kph to 201kph)," Zhu said. "It will also be able to resist the impact of a magnitude-8.0 earthquake and a 300,000-ton vessel."

The entire project was estimated to cost almost 73 billion yuan (US$10.7 billion), which would be shared by authorities on the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, Zhu said.

During construction, which is expected to take six years, they would protect the ocean environment and marine life, he said.

On completion, it would take about 30 minutes to travel from Zhuhai or Macau on the west bank of the Pearl River to Hong Kong on the east bank, compared with three hours now, he said.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang attended the inauguration ceremony in Zhuhai yesterday and officially launched the project, expressing hopes the bridge would bring the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau closer.

"The construction of this bridge is a milestone event," he said at the ceremony, five days ahead of the 10th anniversary of Macau's return to the motherland.

"It is a move to help Hong Kong, Macau and the Pearl River Delta region to cope with the global economic downturn, boost investment and inspire people.

"It can also further increase the links and promote economic cooperation between Hong Kong and Macau, and between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macau."

Donald Tsang, chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR, Ho Hau Wah, chief executive of the Macau SAR, and Chui Sai On, the incoming Macau SAR chief executive, also attended the ceremony.

During a meeting with the three officials, Li said he hoped the two regions could enhance ties with Guangdong to seek mutual benefits.

The central government is developing the Pearl River Delta into a new test field for the country as it works to deepen economic reform and open itself wider to the outside world.


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